Malaysia - Part 1


26/2/09 Having successfully exited Thailand, that is to say without Thai customs clocking out Su's bike, we are in Malaysia very quickly. Again no customs formalities at all. There is a window where one can obtain an "ICP", but there seems to be nobody home, so we don't get one. Some time before we ever entered Malaysia we got a phone call from Malaysia. Shuib is the name and he has spotted our web site and wants to meet and welcome us. As soon as he knows we are in, his biker network gets activated. We are met in the border town by a friend of a friend, who escorts us with his car to meet another biker friend, Zalies, who in turn takes us to Jitra, where we finally get to meet Shuib himself. He and his crowd are a nice bunch. We have drinks with them, they find us a place to sleep and even pay for it! Thank you very much, guys! You are doing your country proud.

Shuib sitting next to me, then Zalies. 

Shuib thinks that not having our carnets stamped might cause problems when shipping the bikes out to Indonesia, so the next day he and a friend take us to the Sadao border, where this is quickly done and they make us buy insurance and obtain an ICP as well. Su even gets a Malaysian licence plate sticker attached to the front of her bike, as nobody outside Thailand could otherwise read her plate! We split shortly after and head East. 


At a lookout spot... 

... one of Su's favourite animals (not!) shows off. 

1/3 After Gerik highway 4 winds its way through sparsely populated terrain, over some hills and across Temenggor lake. We had been warned to fill up with gas, as the only gas station on the route is closed for refurbishment. It turns out that there is another one, not far from Gerik, appropriately named "Despo". Shortly afterwards we have to stop for road works and here we meet Ian from UK on a BMW F800. He has just arrived from Indonesia, so we have stories to swap. And he is desperate for gas, so I can give him some from my almost full tank. 



We get another phone call from yet another friend of Shuib, called Acid. He tells us of a nice place to stay more or less along the route we are going. We are now in the state of Kelantan, where Islam is observed a little more strictly than in some of the other states. Today is some religious holiday and we experience something unexpected: when we try to find accommodation in Jeli and later in the recommended place, we find that the accommodation places are closed and deserted: everybody is in the mosques. Strange for us Westerners, we expect that they would be very busy with holiday makers, but instead we are having a hard time finding a place to stay. In the evening it rains. It's dry season, right? 

 Wherever there is jungle there are logging trucks, lots of them, mostly ancient
Mercedes. Note how the load is "secured". I wonder how old the big trees were? 

As we get closer to the East coast the country becomes flat and there are rice paddies, which we haven't seen much lately. 

The clouds are thickening and soon after we seek shelter from a heavy shower. Next stop is a small place called Penarik, where we rent a hut on the beach. Now the weather packs it in and we stay 3 nights. The roof of our hut leaks in several places and the beds are terrible. The last night we move into another hut with only one minor leak in the roof. I'm not keen at all to ride in the wet, as my rain suit also leaks. (Expensive, German brand called Held. Junk.) In Penarik we meet an interesting Swiss man by the name of Albert. He's staying for a long time here. No photos from this place, it was too wet. But I got even more wet by swimming every day, which I enjoy very much. 


4/3 When there is a break in the weather we move to Kuala Terengganu. This is a pleasant town and we spend 3 days here. We visit the Crystal Mosque, actually it's covered with glass. Nearby on the same island there is the "Islamic Entertainment Park". Through the fence we can see may miniature reconstructions of famous mosques, etc. However, we baulk at the steep entrance fee, double for foreigners. This is unusual in Malaysia. At the big museum nearby we have great difficulty finding the entrance and when we do find it it's about to close for prayers. We do get to see some of the maritime exhibits outside, though. 


Usually, you see these fellows either dead or only briefly when they cross the road. 

Lunch at the MD Curry House, very yummy Thali. We both like Indian food. Note the Cadbury's bike in the background. 

 Unfortunately, the camera refused to reproduce the Cadbury's Purple colour correctly. I guess it was dazzled... 

We arranged to meet Acid and some of his friends at a national park further inland. Before we leave we stop at one of the traditional boat yards on Pulau Dongyun, where they build the boats like in the days of old. With support from the government the master builder trains apprentices. It takes about two years to build a big yacht like this one, all in hardwood. 


Another one of my famous shortcuts that turned into a slight detour - through the mud. 

On the way to the national park we stop at Tesil (lake) Kenyir for lunch. Take an old
fishing boat, add pontons all around, then build it up like crazy. Voilà, instant house boat. 

Did I mention it's dry season? Shortly before arriving at the park it rains again. 

The road past the lake is superb, almost new. There is hardly any traffic. A lot of jungle has been cleared to build this lonely highway. We arrive just before the others at the park and are soon settled into our respective dormitories. In the evening we want to go for a short walk in the jungle, but find that the gate across the swing bridge has been padlocked. Strange, the jungle closes at night? This is the view from the bridge: 

I couldn't help but notice a few things after entering Malaysia. For starters, outside the towns there appears to be no public transport. In Thailand and Laos there are songthaews and minibuses just about everywhere. Here there is nothing. I guess that comes with progress: every family owns at least one motorbike or car. There are very few bicycles, too. The countryside is neater, like the grass on the side of the roads is kept short, there is little rubbish in most places. One of the UN's definition of a poor place, I was told once, is the absence of Coke or Pepsi on sale. So I'm surprised that it's often not available. I get a hint when in a village I see a banner across the street that even I can understand. It shows George Bush's head grafted onto an ugly looking dog and calls for the boycott of  "American" brands. Curiously, one of the logos shown is that of Nokia. a Finnish company.